Dáil Éireann - Volume 614 - 14 February, 2006
Adjournment Debate. - Job Losses.
Mr. Deenihan Mr. Deenihan
Mr. Deenihan: Apart from the recent loss of 97 jobs in Glen Dimplex, Tralee — 27 jobs in 2005 and 70 in January 2006 — and 25% of the workforce of Fleet Street Travel Ireland Limited, a number of high profile companies have either closed operations or shed jobs in Kerry in recent years such as Jet Environmental, Transmould, Sara Lee, Ridgeview, Stag Cutlery, Sports Socks Company Ireland, Rosenbluth, Wilson Sports Socks, Scott’s Tools, Celtic Circuits, Jetu, Alps Electric and Sheet Metal. All those companies have closed in the past few years. As a result, the industrial base in Kerry has been seriously eroded and the Minister and the IDA are doing very little to arrest this decline.
Employment opportunities in industry in the county are extremely poor at present. There is a major absence of foreign direct investment in Kerry and job creation seems almost non-existent, with many companies contracting rather than expanding their workforces.
In January 2002, there were 6,425 people on the live register in Kerry. In January 2006, at a time of so-called unprecedented national economic success, the number of people on the live register in Kerry was 6,819, a jump of almost 400 people in four years. Almost 4,000 of these people on the live register sign on in either Tralee or Listowel, both towns that have been particularly badly hit by closures in recent years. There is no full employment in Kerry.
Employment in IDA Ireland supported companies in Kerry plummeted by 25.5% between 2001 and 2003 while the national figure fell by 6.5%. From 2002 to 2004 inclusive, 335 jobs were created in IDA Ireland supported companies in Kerry. In the same years, 1,275 jobs were lost in IDA Ireland supported companies in Kerry. Some 1,275 jobs were lost in just three years.
 Figures for 2005 are unavailable as of yet, but the closure of Jet Environmental, Transmould and Sara Lee resulted in the loss of 190 jobs alone. Figures released by the Small Firms Association recently show that 548 redundancies were recorded in Kerry last year, or 2.5% of the national total. In comparison with Cork, Kerry attracts a negligible share of high value added investment in sectors such as financial and international services. There has been a failure to attract a major pharmaceutical or technology firm to Kerry in recent years. In a recent Combat Poverty Agency publication entitled Mapping Poverty, it was claimed that the risk of poverty in County Kerry was 30% to 40% higher than the national level and only counties Donegal, Mayo and Longford fared worse.
The Government must promote County Kerry as a location for industry in the same way that it promotes Dublin, Cork and other centres. Surely the loss of 30% of our industrial jobs in three years deserves a more proactive approach from the Minister and the Government. I understand that IDA Ireland has organised only 13 itineraries to County Kerry in the past five years. Last year alone there were 18 itineraries to Cork.
One of the few positive developments in Kerry over the past five years is the creation of Kerry Technology Park in Tralee by Shannon Development following an investment of €10 million from the company’s income sources. The park has been highly successful in attracting and growing high quality Irish companies. The park is home to 16 technology companies employing 220 people. Technology park companies such as Stockbyte, Altobridge and Freeflow have already been recognised internationally as being among the best in their sectors. Prior to the development of Kerry Technology Park, there were no software or information technology companies in Tralee. In 2005, Shannon Development also opened a new business development centre in Listowel at a cost of €1.6 million from its resources.
It is ironic that the Minister proposes to remove Shannon Development from north Kerry despite its relative success. I appeal to the Minister and the chief executive of IDA Ireland to visit County Kerry immediately to meet the Chambers of Commerce, IBEC, SIPTU, public representatives, the county manager and other interested parties to discuss their plans for rejuvenating employment opportunities in Kerry through foreign direct investment and local indigenous industry. Kerry will have to be singled out for preferential treatment and special attention, especially the towns of Tralee and Listowel, if this trend of job losses is to be arrested.
Mr. Killeen Mr. Killeen
Mr. Killeen: I thank the Deputy for raising these matters. I was disappointed to hear that Glen Dimplex had announced it would close its Tralee operation in April 2006 and that Fleet Street Travel Ireland Limited was to reduce its work force in the town. I am conscious of the effect that these job losses will have on the workers involved and their families as well as the community in the surrounding area, as this is disappointing news for those who will lose their jobs as a result of the announcements. I assure the people concerned that the State agencies will give every support they can. The priority will be to find alternative employment for those involved.
Shannon Development met Dimplex Heating Systems late last year and learned it was likely that the company would close with the loss of 70 jobs. The closure was confirmed to Shannon Development on 4 January 2006. I understand the reason for the closure is the fall off in the company’s traditional markets for low cost cylinder cleaners due to competition from China, and the very slow uptake of its new products in the commercial cleaning market. The company has commenced a consultation process with SIPTU and directly with staff members.
Unfortunately, Fleet Street Travel Ireland Limited has lost a key contract to one of its global competitors and is, therefore, obliged to reduce the workforce at its Tralee operation. I understand that the reduction in the workforce is being made to safeguard the remaining jobs in Tralee and the company is fully committed to ensuring this. All staff have now been informed of the situation and the company has entered into a period of consultation with its staff. The company will also continue to search for viable alternative solutions.
The role of FÁS, the State training agency, will be especially important in assisting those who are to lose their jobs. The agency has already met Glen Dimplex to discuss the closure and to inform the company of the range of its services available during company closures. The agency has also met Fleet Street Travel and a second meeting has been scheduled to finalise arrangements for the registration of the workers. The full range of FÁS services, particularly for retraining and upskilling, will be made available to the workers of both companies if they wish to avail of those services. Finding alternative employment for the workers will be a priority for the State development agencies. I assure the Deputy that IDA Ireland and Shannon Development, in addition to FÁS, will play their part in developing a way forward for both sets of workers.
Both IDA Ireland and Shannon Development are confident that the strategies and policies being pursued in Tralee, together with the ongoing commitment to regional development, will continue to bring investment and job creation to the area. There has been an increase in employment of 55 people over the past year at Kerry Technology Park in Tralee. This increase was spread across a number of companies, all of which operate in the knowledge-based business sector.
There is a diverse range of companies located in County Kerry representing a number of indus try sectors such as pharmaceuticals, engineering and consumer products. The sectoral emphasis of IDA Ireland in the mid-west region is on attracting new knowledge intensive projects in information and communications technology, international services, medical technologies and life sciences.
To foster collaboration between industry and academia, IDA Ireland works closely with the local educational infrastructure, particularly the institute of technology in Tralee and the University of Limerick. Last year, eight IDA Ireland companies in the mid-west committed themselves to research and development projects worth €19 million. The agency continues to work closely with educational institutions in the region in developing the skills sets necessary to attract high value added employment to the county.
Shannon Development has approved a €1.5 million support package for two Kerry-based indigenous companies, Altobridge Limited and Freeflow. The support will lead to increased research and development activity in both companies and will generate an additional 43 jobs at Kerry Technology Park over the next five years. The support for Altobridge has also brought about substantial private equity funding.
I assure Deputy Deenihan that the State agencies will continue to work closely with each other and with the development bodies in the area, as well as with local interests, in facilitating an integrated approach to enterprise development in Tralee.
Dáil Éireann 614 Adjournment Debate. Job Losses.